Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Polish football fans most anti-Semitic in Europe?

Or so says a report by British MP John Mann alongside English activist Jonny Cohen (who I think is from the 'Socialist Zionist Culturally Jewish youth movement' Habonim Dror UK) presented at the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, in Jerusalem.

In the report - entitled Anti-Semitism in football - a scar on the beautiful game - Man has counted over 30 incidents of anti-Semitic abuse at football matches across Europe. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The UK and Poland are the worst offenders, according to the 16-page document, which describes anti-Semitic incidents in 18 countries across Europe. The report notes that "in Polish matches fans routinely call each other 'Jews' as a term of abuse.

One example detailed occurred in May 2006 during a Polish cup tie between Stal and Resovia Rzeszow, where "fans of Stal exhibited a huge flag with the motto: "H5N1 - not only one Jew will die" and a banner with a Celtic cross - a racist symbol of white power."

Another occurred in Krakow in March 2007, when fans of Legia Warsaw chanted "Jews, Jews, Jews, [the] whole of Poland is ashamed of you."
There is no doubt that there a quite a few right wing thugs in Polish football. And they can be very unpleasant. One of the worst clubs with a history of this is Lodz LKS, which is, or was, according to a report by the AJC Berlin Office/Ramer Centre for German-Jewish Relations ‘heavily infiltrated’ by the fascist nut job National Revival party (NOP).

And it’s not just the fans painting their dumb swastikas on walls and chanting anti-Semitic chants on the terraces. It’s actually in the dressing rooms of the clubs themselves, alleges Frankline Mudoh, who claims that coaches from many teams in Poland are ‘put under pressure from players not to include blacks in their team’!

The Jerusalem Post goes on:

In the UK, the report says, fans of Arsenal chanted "Send the Jews to Auschwitz."

The report also details anti-Semitic verbal abuse directed towards Israelis, including chants shouted at national team goalkeeper Dudu Awat of Spanish club Deportivo La Caruna during games against Osasuna, and the assault on Hapoel Tel Aviv fans after the team's win over Ukrainian team Chernomorets.
The Arsenal obsession comes from the hatred of their north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, with its home ground in an area which once had a relative concentration of Jews living there. One of the chants you can still hear at Arsenal – whether Spurs are playing or not – is I've got a foreskin, how 'bout you?'

How quaint!

Arsenal fans have always protested that when calling fans and players of Spurs ‘yids’, they were not being derogatory to those players and fans – the vast majority of which are obviously not Jewish. And some of the supporters of Spurs call themselves the ‘Yid Army’...strange but true.

So, how large is this problem and is it on the rise? Mann, the MP who wrote the report, certainly thinks so: “The oldest hatred - anti-Semitism - continues to rear its ugly head in football," he writes in his report.

The football authorities in Poland were slow to get going on anti-racism measures, after black players began to come and play here. Michal Listkiewicz, chairman of the Polish Football Authority ignored the problem, and was slow to act, as he was against fighting endemic corruption in the game. But anti-Semitism on the terraces (and in the dressing room) is not dependant on what happens at football clubs. Anti-Semitism is used by fringe and populist political groups, which had a field day in the two years of the Kaczynski government – so encouraged they were by the weird administration in power.

But maybe the populist moment – which peaked in the wake of EU accession – has waned here. There are still the meat-heads of course, and they won’t be going way anytime soon. But as a political force these groups are spent. For now.

Is Poland a quivering pogrom time bomb waiting to go off? Is anti-Semitic Polish or English football culture getting worse? Not really.

And the admittedly offensive chanting of Arsenal fans in London? I honestly don’t think that has much to do with anti-Semitism at all. Not much.